This year is going to be different. Each August 29 as we reach another anniversary, this time the 15th, we remember Hurricane Katrina and the levees that broke. Heaven knows there is much to recall. Everyone who was living in our area at the time went through dramatic stories of escape, survival, and rebuilding. There are millions of such stories, and they all need to be heard, but this year there is a new elephant in the room.
Inevitably the conversation will turn to a comparison with the COVID-19 experience. COVID and Katrina are alike in that they upended our lives and created insecurity. But there have been differences. Most of us never lost property to COVID and we have been able to sleep in our own beds. COVID has not knocked down trees; made our walls moldy nor created piles of waterlogged garbage in front of our home. There have been no rusting refrigerators with doors taped to contain the maggots breeding inside.
Katrina was a regional disaster but at least we had the rest of the country to lean on. COVID is universal. Help is needed everywhere.
For both Katrina and COVID we depended on the largesse of the federal government while at the same time being critical of Washington for not doing enough.
Where we are heading now is open to speculation. The Katrina recovery was good for the region. Bridges; politics; streets; homes – many things that were broken got fixed. Through grants and donations, the recovery brought in dollars that touched off a financial boom. By Katrina’s fourth anniversary, New Orleans was a better place. (And the Saints would soon be going to the to the Super Bowl.)
With COVID we can hope for a Katrina-like recovery, but we would be well advised to restrain the optimism. Yes, the physical damages have been far less than for Katrina, but the mental challenges may be greater.
At least with Katrina, we knew when the storm had passed.
BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Errol’s Laborde’s books, “New Orleans: The First 300 Years” and “Mardi Gras: Chronicles of the New Orleans Carnival” (Pelican Publishing Company, 2017 and 2013), are available at local bookstores and at book websites.
WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 9:30 A.M. SUNDAYS.WYES-TV, CH. 12.